Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats


94      MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE

the artistic life the gift of imagination is used to cast over the
commonplace workaday world a veil of beauty to make it
throb with our aesthetic enjoyment. In China, the art of
living is one with the arts of painting and poetry. As Li Liweng
at the end of the seventeenth century expressed it in a dramatic
passage,

First we look at the hills in the painting.
Then we look at the painting in the hills.

The imagination, by its contemplation of sorrow and poverty,
turns sorrow and poverty into beauty, as we see so clearly in
Tu Fu's poetry. For beauty resides in the huts, in the grass-
hoppers, in the cicada's wings, and, strangest of all, in the
rocks, too. The Chinese alone in the world would paint a
piece of jagged rock and hang it on the wall for daily con-
templation and enjoyment. These rocks—they are not the
carved stones of Venice or of Florence, but the rugged and
untamed works of nature, still retaining the rough rhythm
of their natural appearance, from which our aesthetic enjoy-
ment is drawn. I think the enjoyment of the rhythm of a
common clock is the last refinement of the Chinese mind.
Indeed the Chinese mind is as keen to detect the beauty in a
common pebble as it is anxious to squeeze the last ounce of
happiness from an insecure and fate-ruled world. That paint-
ing of a solitary rugged rock or of a cat watching a grasshopper
he would hang on his wall and contemplate, although a civil
war might be raging outside his very doors. To find beauty
in common life, that is the value of the Wordsworthian and
the Chinese imagination, for Wordsworth is the most Chinese
in spirit of all English poets. "If you do not run away from
the raindrops, you will find them most beautiful," said Hsiao
Shihwei at the end of the Ming Dynasty. He was speaking of
the familiar style of writing diaries. But it was not only a
literary doctrine. It was a doctrine of life.